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9:02AM

S.F. Examiner: Sweet redemption: Warriors become first Bay Area team to win title at home since 1974

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

OAKLAND — Now inevitability was about to become reality. Fewer  than four minutes remained, and the crowd, at first hesitant, then triumphant, as the Warriors would in a short, glorious time Monday night, let loose, turning the building once more from the Oracle into the “Roaracle,” a place where winners reside.

“Warr-rriors, Warr-rriors, Warr-rriors,” they chanted loudly enough to be heard from Salinas to Sonoma — a gleeful, repetitive salute to the NBA’s once and newest champions, the team that was just short of playoff perfection but long on brilliance and success.

Read the full story here.

©2017 The San Francisco Examiner

8:51AM

S.F. Examiner: Durant dominates as Warriors take 1-0 lead in Finals

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

OAKLAND — This was scripted out last summer, the Warriors adding a piece — which was not necessarily missing but unique — special enough to help return the championship they let slip away.

Kevin Durant was looking for the title he lacked, and the Dubs gleefully — if not inexpensively — brought him on board as a free agent, the man who would make a difference.

Read the full story here.

©2017 The San Francisco Examiner

9:59AM

Durant gets his props and his points

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — The man was marveling about Kevin Durant’s brilliance. “He’s such a super efficient player,” was the observation. “He scores from all over the place. Watching a talent like that is just so special.”

As is the talent of the man talking, Stephen Curry.

They say only another athlete truly understands the skills and demands of a sport, the qualities that separate him or her from the rest. And so when Curry, who awes so many of us, himself is in awe — well, then we have a better idea of the level that Durant has reached.

And why the Warriors were so eager to sign him as a free agent, to join Curry and Draymond Green and Klay Thompson.

Yes, the Dubs won a ninth straight home game Wednesday night, defeating the “how did they stay so close for so long” Portland Trail Blazers (answer: C.J. McCollum), 125-117, at Oracle Arena.

The Blazers didn’t have Damian Lillard, the Oakland kid, out with a sore left ankle. And yet for a while there, late in the second quarter, Portland was in front by eight, mostly because McCollum, who scored 26 of his total 35 before halftime, couldn’t be stopped.

But as expected (yes, these Warrior games have a familiar theme), the Dubs found a way — “In the second half, our defense picked up,” said a satisfied coach Steve Kerr — and extended their league-best record to 31-5.

Curry, with 35 of his own, and Durant's 30 were a couple of the reasons. And Draymond, with 11 assists and nine points, despite missing minutes because of foul trouble, was another reason.

Kerr echoed Curry about Durant. Or maybe Curry echoed Kerr. Either way, both offered respect and high praise for a man who simply plays basketball as it is meant to be played, never forcing a shot or a pass but working within the system and with his teammates. 

“I thought Kevin was great,” Kerr said. “We had to change our rotation with Draymond’s foul trouble, so we played (Durant) the whole third quarter, which we normally don’t do. It was a typical Kevin night, some of everything. “

As in five rebounds, three blocked shots and two steals, along with the 30 points on 9-of-16 shooting.

“We are getting used to it,” added Kerr. “He’s such an efficient offensive player. Thirty points on 16 shots. He seems to do this every night.”

Efficient. Curry said the same thing, with an adjective. “Kevin is super efficient.”

At 6-foot-9, Durant is not the huge presence of a 7-foot Andrew Bogut, someone who was, in basketball lingo, a rim protector, someone who jammed up the middle. So the Warriors found a different method.

“It’s not as traditional as it has been the last couple of years with Festus (Ezeli, now with the Blazers) and Bogut,” said Kerr. “It’s more guard-oriented. But KD comes in here and blocks a lot of shots, and so does Draymond. We have a lot of long, rangy guys to challenge shots.”

They didn’t do much challenging of McCollum in the first half. He was 10 of 19. But after intermission, he was just 3-of-12. “Just got more physical,” said Kerr. “The first half I felt he was getting anywhere he wanted. In the second half, we ran him off routes. Just a little quicker and more alert.”

Curry, the NBA’s Most Valuable Player the past two seasons (Durant was the MVP three seasons ago) has been knocked of late either for not taking shots or missing them. On Wednesday night, he connected on a quick three-pointer but had only (only?) nine points playing the full 12 minutes of the opening quarter. Eventually he would go 12-of-25, if only 5-of-13 on three-point attempts.

“It was a little more aggressive game,” said Curry. “The way they defended, I got a lot of shots off the pick-and-roll. Still, obviously I missed some easy ones. So I need to continue to be aggressive.

“There was a purposeful kind of focus for us. We’re at home. We have to take care of home court.”

They’ve done it, with the help of Kevin Durant taking care of everything.

8:57AM

Warriors loss ‘shows where they are’

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — This was a prove-it game for the Warriors, a game that would show when the other team was hot — in this case the Houston Rockets, that frequent nemesis — the Dubs could be as tough as advertised, prepared and ready to show what was possible.

Or maybe impossible.

A 12-game winning streak was on the line, and maybe on the Warriors’ minds, but it ended Thursday night at the Oracle in front of a sellout crowd that was as disappointed as it was bewildered. How did this happen? And was it portentious?

The night and the game seemed to last forever, starting late at 7:52 p.m. because TNT wasn’t ready, and ending at 11:06. A double-overtime that had virtually everything: comebacks, Steph Curry fouling out, Draymond Green getting a flagrant foul, Kevin Durant scoring 39 points.

Everything except a Warriors win, the Rockets holding on, 132-127.

After all those relatively easy victories the past few weeks, this was a difficult loss, especially after building a four-point lead in the first OT.

“It kind of shows you where you are,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr. “It’s easy to execute when you are winning by a lot of points. Under pressure with a tough game, you’ve got to execute better.

“That’s on us and our staff to do a better job of getting our guys ready into some things that they will be comfortable with down the stretch.”

The Warriors are all too familiar with the Rockets, who each of the last two years they outlasted in the playoffs on the way to the finals. Particularly the sleight-of-hand of James Harden and the muscle of Trevor Ariza.

What they didn’t know was how two new additions, Ryan Anderson, the 6-foot-10 forward from Cal who had been with New Orleans, and Eric Gordon would fit in. Perfectly, it turned out.

Anderson is astute and alert, and shoots like a smaller man. He had 29 points, the same as Harden. The Rockets moved the ball beautifully and got key rebounds after an occasional missed shot.

Curry, meanwhile, was failing early. He had five points and three fouls at halftime. And although recovering enough to score 28 points, Steph was only 9-of-22 and 4-of-13 on threes.

“They did a good job of switching,” Kerr said of the Rockets. “They outplayed us. They deserved to win.”

Harsh words for Warriors fans who, with the team’s acquisition of Durant as a free agent, possibly believed the championship that got away in 2016 would return in 2017. The Dubs are now 16-3 and obviously vulnerable.

“We started the game off slow,” said Durant, who was 12-of-28, “and let them get some confidence. They got a lot of long rebounds.”

So after the Warriors would force a missed shot, Houston came back for another shot and didn’t miss. At one point, the Rockets would be up by 10. All the shouts of “Defense, defense,” from fans properly distressed by the game’s direction, didn’t help much.

“We did not play well,” Kerr said. “We got off to a horrible start. We didn’t move the ball very well. We had our moments, especially in the first overtime. We had a real cushion, and I thought we let it slip away when we had every opportunity to finish them off.”

But they couldn’t, and they didn’t.

“We can compete with anybody,” said Harden. He draws fouls — he was 11-for-11 from the line. He draws boos.

“It’s a huge win for us,” said Harden.

Not a huge loss for the Warriors, but a reminder there is more to the NBA than the Cleveland Cavaliers and the San Antonio Spurs.

“They make it tough,” said Durant of matching up with Houston. “They stretch you out, and they have James (Harden) handle the ball a lot, well all game. He’s good at making plays. They have shooters.”

Shooters who shot down the idea that the Warriors would just keep winning.

9:45AM

Winning Warriors at home in road jerseys

By Art Spander

OAKLAND — Was watching the Warriors. You know, the basketball team that keeps trying all those little tricks, like wearing road uniforms at home to keep the opposition off balance and — certainly — to hope the fans buy another set of jerseys or T-shirts.

There were the Dubs on Saturday night in their slate, sleeved tops, and the Minnesota Timberwolves in white, as if Oracle Arena had been moved to Minneapolis. Had me fooled for a while.

Hey, that wasn’t Steph Curry throwing them up from the outside, was it? Not certain. Time to look at the scoreboard.

No fooling there. Another Warriors victory. Eleven in a row, this one by a score of 115-102. The Dubs are now 15-2. When do the playoffs start?

The idea that acquiring Kevin Durant as a free agent would make the visiting — sorry, dark jerseys, home team — virtually unbeatable is making a great deal of sense, as Durant, Curry, Klay Thompson and the rest are, well, virtually unbeatable. 

And Saturday they won without Draymond Green, out with a sore ankle. Maybe Dray, one of the NBA’s better defensive players — yes, a bit restrained with the accolades, as it’s still only November — would have kept Zach Levine from scoring 31 or Karl-Anthony Towns from getting 18, but that’s academic.

As it was, the Warriors’ Big Three indeed were a big three. Curry with 34 points, Durant with 28, Thompson with 29. And as Dubs coach Steve Kerr pointed out about the points, they came from inside as opposed to outside. Only 22 three-point attempts, 11 of those successful.

“We missed Dray,” said Thompson, “missed his defense and passing.”

And his exhorting and shouting. “The rest of us had to raise our voices to make up for it,” said Thompson. Most likely he was serious, but with the Warriors one never is quite sure how to take a comment.

They are a fun bunch, and for good reason. They’ve got the routine down, almost to perfection.

A quick start, a minor stumble, a halftime lead and then a victory, whatever the spread. But fans never get bored by wins. Neither do coaches or players.

Maybe the league ought to force the Warriors to sit out a starter every game until January. With Green missing, Kevon Looney, the team’s first-round draft pick in the championship year of 2015, started at what used to be known as power forward but is now called the No. 4.  

“Our spacing was very different,” said Kerr, if the results are not. Looney had six points and two rebounds. “I thought he played well,” said Kerr. Yes, just plug in another star and keep the machine running.

Then again, for the first time in 11 games, they failed to record 30 assists, getting only 25. Horrors!

Kerr is thinking about the future, the postseason, as are most of us. “We are interested in the process, and what we are doing,” he said when asked if any win, by one point or 20 points, was equally satisfying.

“We know, when games in the spring come, what it takes. We’ve been there the last two years and succeeded once and failed last year ultimately. We felt what the games are like in the playoffs, so you try to prepare for that in the regular season.

“You focus on the process. Try and win the game, but focus on the things that you know you have to get better at.”

Not much, one presumes, especially now that Durant is part of that process.

“The only thing we told him,” said Kerr about Durant, “was that he was going to guard Towns. We knew Looney could do a good job, and he would start on hm. But we told Kevin (Durant) he would have some minutes on Towns. I didn’t tell him anything else. He knows the game. I thought he was spectacular.”

No matter what color the jersey.